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The Gilboa Region takes its name from the mountain that looms over it, but much of it is situated in the environs of Beit She’an, in a section of the Jezreel Valley known as the Valley of Springs. Water from the mountain aquifer emerges from the slopes of the Gilboa into this fertile area, which is now largely agricultural. From ancient times, it was also a natural thoroughfare across the Jordan Valley; the gentle upward slope of the Jezreel Valley allowed much easier passage to the coast than did the steep slopes of the mountains further south. As such, it was the site of many an ancient battle – ancient sources are filled with tales of warring armies clashing in the region, most notably those of King Saul when he and his son Jonathan perished below the mountain.

Hikers today find much quieter surroundings, with flowing streams, springs, palm and eucalyptus groves, and a towering mountain dominating views of the area. During fall and spring, birds migrating between Africa and northern Europe come through the Jordan Valley in droves, and every body of water (including the open fish ponds) becomes a birdwatcher’s paradise. Above the valley in the pine woods of Mt. Gilboa, the rare and beautiful Gilboa Iris blooms for a few weeks in March and April; the Abraham Path passes immediately next to the reserve where it grows most densely.

Accommodations

Accommodations

 

Stage Location Name Type Price # of beds Contact Information (+###) [country code] Amenities
1 Ganei Huga (slightly east of Beit She’an) Ganei Huga C 72 NIS/$20 per person (972) 04-658-1111 natural pools; parking; 24V electricity; bathrooms and showers; kitchen; snack stand with light meals and gear
1 Kibbutz Neve Eitan Naveh Ba’emek Guesthouse G Midweek-300 NIS/$80

Weekend-400 NIS/$110

Holidays, June-July – 600 NIS/$165

Additional person-150 NIS/$40

12 zimmers (972) 052-355-4159 air conditioning; meals; television; bbq; play areas
2 Beit She’an Beit She’an Youth Hostel and Guest House H Single-361 NIS/$105; Double-553 NIS/$160; Triple-751 NIS/$215; Quadruple-950 NIS/$275 62 rooms (972) 02-594-5644 outdoor pool; cable television; restaurant; wifi; parking; packed lunches; luggage storage; air conditioning
2 Nir David Iruach Kfari (Village Hospitality) Zimmerim G From 620 NIS/$180 for a zimmer 41 zimmers (972) 053-793-1470 breakfast; air conditioning; wifi; jacuzzi; spa; cable television; kitchen; bbq; playground; parking; pool
2 Kibbutz Ein Harod Ein Harod Country Suites and Guesthouse G From 470 NIS/$130 for a zimmer 26 zimmers (972) 04-648-6083 breakfast; air conditioning; jacuzzi; spa treatments; wifi; television; bbq; pool; sauna
3 Gan Ner Villa Billy Zimmerim G From 650 NIS/$190 for a zimmer 2 zimmers (972) 050-530-3888 breakfast; air conditioning; wifi; spa; kitchen; bbq; parking; pool

Accommodations Key

F – Family Stay
G – Guesthouse (small, locally-owned establishment with private rooms)
H – Hotel
Hs – Hostel (accommodation offering dormitory options)
T – Bedouin Tent (usually dormitory-style sleeping on mats on the floor of a large tent)
S – Shelter (a few areas have free hiker shelters, which are a simple room with cots that hikers can use)
C – Camping (a paid or free place to put down a tent, may or may not have facilities)

Transportation

Getting to the Abraham Path in the Gilboa Region

The main airport in Israel is Ben Gurion International airport, located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel has a well-developed and affordable system of public transport that includes buses, shared taxis (known as sheruts) and trains. For bus schedules and prices, see www.bus.co.il. Train connections service the coastal cities as well as Beersheva; see rail.co.il for schedules and prices. Both buses and trains do not run on Shabbat (from Friday evening to Saturday night), while shared taxis run seven days a week.

Beit She’an, Nir David, Gan Hashlosha, Beit Alfa, and Gan Ner are all served by public buses (except Friday evening through Saturday evening). Local buses run throughout the area between Afula and Beit She’an.  Both regional hubs can be reached by bus from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Tiberias; Afula can also be reached by bus from Haifa or by sherut from Tel Aviv.

Airport Transport to Afula:

Afula is the most accessible public transportation hub in the Gilboa Region.  From Afula, travelers can easily reach any of the sites along the Gilboa route that are serviced by bus.  There are a number of ways to reach Afula from Ben Gurion International airport.

  1. Via train to Haifa: from the airport, take the train north to the Lev Hamifrats station in Haifa for 47 NIS.  Get off the train, exit the mall, and cross the road to the bus station.  Take bus 301 to the Afula Central Bus Station for about 18 NIS.
  2. Private taxi: Airport taxis have set prices.  A journey to Afula costs  ___NIS with higher costs on nights and weekends
  3. Car rental: Several rental car companies are available 24/7 at the airport. Costs range from $30-60/€22-44 per day with gas/petrol costing about $8/gallon or €1.6/liter. Note that most car rental insurance offered by credit cards is void in Israel. Insurance from most Israeli rental cars is void in Palestinian Territory areas A and B.

Entering by land:

From Jordan there are three crossings into Israel: King Hussein/Allenby in the center, Sheikh Hussein/Beit She’an in the north and Aqaba/Eilat in the south. The closest border to the Gilboa Region is the Sheikh Hussein/Beit She’an crossing.  From the border, private taxis are available into Beit She’an.

From Egypt there is one crossing into Israel at Taba. Take a taxi to Eilat from the border, then a bus from Eilat to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, which can be booked ahead via Egged bus company (www.egged.com).

Visas:

Citizens of the US, EU, Russia, Japan and most western countries are issued a free 3-month B/2 tourist visa upon arrival which may be extended by applying at a Ministry of Interior office. Visitors from most other countries require a visa in advance. Citizens of most Arab and predominantly Muslim countries can individually apply for a visa but it is difficult to obtain one in practice. The most commonly issued visas for these travelers is through organized tour groups, and the application is often handled by Palestinian tour operators based in East Jerusalem. For specific visa guidelines, check the information provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As of 2013, Israeli visas at the border are being issued on a separate piece of paper and not stamped directly in passports. Israel charges an exit fee of 108 NIS when exiting via a land border (no separate exit fee when leaving via the airport), and 173 NIS when exiting via the Allenby Bridge crossing (known as King Hussein Bridge in Jordan).

On rare occasions, visas are denied or 2-week only visas are supplied to visitors suspected of being involved in political activism. Travellers mentioning they plan to visit Palestinian Territory or friendships/connections with Palestinians, Muslims or Arab people are often subject to additional questioning and delays when entering and leaving Israel/Palestine. In rare cases, visa personnel may request to see a copy of your itinerary, proof of funds, and/or other documents verifying the purpose of your visit.

Sites in the Gilboa Region:

Mt. Gilboa

Wind your way up a commanding chain of mountains for sweeping panoramas of the surrounding valleys, a diverse array of unique plant life, and a glimpse of the epic setting for an ancient battle.

Beit Alfa

In a small kibbutz at the foot of the towering Mount Gilboa, discover the remains of an ancient synagogue and spend some time examining the fascinating religious artwork preserved inside.

Beit She’an

Stroll down a colonnaded street through the ruins of one of this region’s oldest cities, pausing to take in the traces left by over 6,000 years of diverse civilizations.

Gan haShlosha

Gather your energy for the taxing ascent up Mt. Gilboa by wiling away a few hours splashing in hot springs and napping under palm trees in this beautiful park.